International Roundtable to focus on United Nations

By Alex Park

In Minnesota, October is the time when the weather shifts, dodging between summer hot and winter cold until finally starting its descent into the deep freeze. And at Macalester, ideas start their spring season.
Thursday, Oct. 12 will mark the beginning of Macalester’s 2006 International Roundtable, an annual series of lectures and debates from varying perspectives on an issue of global significance.
With debates arising about the role of the United Nations in international studies classes on and off Macalester’s campus, and the end of Kofi Annan’s term looming in the not-too-distant future, the topic this year was chosen to be, appropriately enough, the future role (or lack thereof) of the United Nations.
“It will be a reflection on the United Nations, where it has been and on the future of the organization,” Professor Ahmed Samatar, Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship, said. This is the first year the Institute has sponsored the event.

Three distinguished guest speakers will offer their perspectives on the subject at hand, beginning on the second of the three days. Following their addresses, specially selected faculty, as well as one student and one alumnus, will pose responses. Following their response the speakers will have the opportunity for rebuttal.
One of the guest speakers will be Nile Gardiner, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and far-Right critic of the United Nations. Gardiner, who is a frequent commentator on Fox News, is expected to offer a perspective similar to that of John Bolton, the Bush-appointed American ambassador to the UN and another outspoken critic of the organization’s role in the world.
Gardiner’s opinion may not be popular on the Macalester campus, but, according to Samatar, it is important to hear. “The idea is to get differing views on the subject,” he said. Gardiner’s opinion is relevant “and we need to engage that line.”

The student response to Gardiner’s twenty minute speech will be provided by Natalia Espejo ’07. Espejo, an International Studies and Political Science major, says that so far she has put in upwards of forty hours of work preparing for and writing what will ultimately be a fifteen-minute speech.
Her preparations have included reading Gardiner’s writings on the subject, drafting and rewriting her address. “I’m very honored to be doing this,” she said.
Espejo described the ideal response as “conversational,” incorporating a style of writing similar to the speaker’s while still making it suitable within the context of a speech.
“I use [Gardiner’s] language to a point, and then I go two steps beyond,” she said.

The other two guest speakers will be Francis M. Deng, a native of Sudan and an expert on the Darfur Crisis, and Macalester graduate Tonderai Chikuhwa ’96 of the UN’s Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

This will be the 13th annual Macalester International Roundtable. Last year’s subject, “Quixotic Offspring: the Global Legacy of Don Quixote,” had “more than a few students scratching their heads” when it was first announced, according to a Mac Weekly article last fall.
“I went with my mom and a friend and we all fell asleep the first day, so we didn’t go the second,” Adam Rule ’09 said. “I really didn’t understand why they chose that topic at all.”

Samatar said he considered last year’s Roundtable a great success despite its critics. Nonetheless, he says, this year the subject resonates with a special significance. As he put it, reflecting not only on the college’s most famous alumnus but also on its decades-long history flying the UN flag, “there is no subject that is more close to the heart of Macalester College than the United Nations.”
The 2006 Macalester International Roundtable: The United Nations Organization: What Future? begins on Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m. with a keynote address from Professor Ahmed Samatar and President Brian Rosenberg at Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel.
For a complete program of events, visit: www.macalester.edu/globalcitizenship/roundtable